Due to increases in medical technology, surrogacy has now become a viable option to struggling couples who are finding it difficult to start or expand their family due to infertility or other issues. A surrogacy arrangment is an arrangement where a couple (known as the intended parents) agree with woman (known as the birth mother), where the birth mother will, under the arrangement, get pregnant and the resulting child of the pregnancy is for all intents and puposes considered to be the child of the intended parents. There are generally two types of surrogacy arrangements – altruistic and commercial.
An altruistic surrogacy arrangement is one where the birth mother assists the intended parents with the birth of a child, without any reimbursement other than her own medical and legal costs.
A commercial surrogacy arrangement is a surrogacy arrangement where the birth mother is paid an amount that goes beyond covering her medical and legal costs – some people like to view it as compensation to the birth mother for her assistance and her time.
Surrogacy has become a boom in countries like India and Ukraine. These procedures are still relatively new and the ethical positions about it uncertain. Many religious organisations oppose surrogacy, and other organisations say commercial surrogacy exploits poor mothers in developing countries to bear the children of rich mothers in developed countries. Other organisations say that it is extremely difficult to find women who intend to enter into altruistic surrogacy arrangements and that that the mothers entering into such arrangements know exactly what they are getting into.
In New South Wales the Surrogacy Act 2010 has made it illegal to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements, to the extent that it imposes criminal penalties on intended parents who enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements. The legislation has far reaching consequences as well – even if you are not in the country, as long as you are normally a resident of New South Wales, the legislation will apply to you.
This has caused many prospective mothers anguish because the legislation severely limits their options. What’s worse is that there aren’t many other options – in NSW and in Australia, adoption is a long and drawn out process, often lasting years. Indeed in 2009/10, there were 13 local adoptions and 78 intercountry adoptions across all of NSW. (source: NSW Department of Family and Community Services).
Is commercial surrogacy an option? Is it ethically sound or is it exploitative? Does it indeed benefit both parties? Does it turn babies into commodities?
These are all difficult questions. We certainly hope that over time we are able to answer them.